The Night of the Battleships, Guadalcanal, Oct. 23, 1943
Here I lie, in the high kunai.
Emerging to the smoke and the bloody grease.
The grass like emeralds,
The parrots like charm,
Made this paradise far from harm
Had we not dug our holes and covers
Thinking the shells that zoom above
Were meant for metal, and planes and not
Our little wiki by the sea —
My shelter from the enemy.
But now I emerge, my buddy nearby,
We both stare out are the fallen palms,
The widow makers that have conspired
To kill us as if we did them harm,
When we only meant to eat their fruit.
Gee, I didn’t think they gave a hoot.
But now, in the aftermath of light
I shiver less, but tremble instead,
And can never stop my twitching head.
The jungle blasted through the dark,
Fire fell and the ground, it swelled
Like a ship at sea,
Or the end of days, which it might have been,
The final raze.
The earth engulfed me, me and Jim,
We huddled close, I to him,
And he wept and I cried,
And we heard those who died,
As the big guns at sea,
Nerves shot. Limbs shaken.
Pants wet as I lose my bacon.
And I clutch and am clutched,
For eternity, because the curtain is drawn.
For hours it seemed, we had this rain,
This death from the sea and the jungle insane.
And when it ended, who knew? Who cared?
We were frazzled beyond dreams we dared.
So like rats we pushed aside
The stinking boughs and the sharpened fronds
And listen to the calls and the cries beyond,
The surivors and the fallen fond.
I’m dumb. Jim’s dumb. The world’s dumb too.
I can only stare at Paradise lost.
But more has been lost than a Pacific Isle.
I lost my bacon and my generous smile.
So here I lie, in the high kunai
And pray if the guns go off again,
That I embrace a sniper’s dart,
Through the head or through the heart,
Because words forever fail my lips
After that night with the battleships.
Edward C. Patterson